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The Extermination of the American Bison Part 19

Mr. McCormick considered the subject important, and had not a doubt of the fearful slaughter. He read the following extract from a letter that he had received from General Hazen:

I know a man who killed with his own hand ninety-nine buffaloes in one day, without taking a pound of the meat. The buffalo for food has an intrinsic value about equal to an average Texas beef, or say $20. There are probably not less than a million of these animals on the western plains. If the Government owned a herd of a million oxen they would at least take steps to prevent this wanton slaughter. The railroads have made the buffalo so accessible as to present a case not dissimilar.

He agreed with Mr. Cox that some features of the bill would probably be impracticable, and moved to amend it. He did not believe any bill would entirely accomplish the purpose, but he desired that such wanton slaughter should be stopped.

Said he, "It would have been well both for the Indians and the white men if an enactment of this kind had been placed on our statute-books years ago. * * * I know of no one act that would gratify the red men more."

Mr. Holman expressed surprise that Mr. Cox should make any objection to parts of the measure. The former regarded the bill as "an effort in a most commendable direction," and trusted that it would pass.

Mr. Cox said he would not have objected to the bill but from the fact that it was partial in its provisions. He wanted a bill that would impose a penalty on every man, red, white, or black, who may wantonly kill these buffaloes.

Mr. Potter desired to know whether more buffaloes were slaughtered by the Indians than by white men.

Mr. Fort thought the white men were doing the greatest amount of killing.

Mr. Eldridge thought there would be just as much propriety in killing the fish in our rivers as in destroying the buffalo in order to compel the Indians to become civilized.

Mr. Conger said: "As a matter of fact, every man knows the range of the buffalo has grown more and more confined year after year; that they have been driven westward before advancing civilization." But he opposed the bill!

Mr. Hawley, of Connecticut, said: "I am glad to see this bill. I am in favor of this law, and hope it will pass."

Mr. Lowe favored the bill, and thought that the buffalo ought to be protected for proper utility.

Mr. Cobb thought they ought to be protected for the settlers, who depended partly on them for food.

Mr. Parker, of Missouri, intimated that the policy of the Secretary of the Interior was a sound one, and that the buffaloes ought to be exterminated, to prevent difficulties in civilizing the Indians.

Said Mr. Conger, "I do not think the measure will tend at all to protect the buffalo."

Mr. McCormick replied: "This bill will not prevent the killing of buffaloes for any useful purpose, but only their wanton destruction."

Mr. Kasson said: "I wish to say one word in support of this bill, because I have had some experience as to the manner in which these buffaloes are treated by hunters. The buffalo is a creature of vast utility, * * *. This animal ought to be protected; * * *."

The question being taken on the passage of the bill, there were--ayes 132, noes not counted.

So the bill was passed.

On June 23, 1874, this bill (H. R. 921) came up in the Senate.[74]

[Note 74: Congressional Globe, Vol. 2, part 6, Forty-third Congress, first session.]

Mr. Harvey moved, as an amendment, to strike out the words "who is not an Indian."

Said Mr. Hitchcock, "That will defeat the bill."

Mr. Frelinghuysen said: "That would prevent the Indians from killing the buffalo on their own ground. I object to the bill."

Mr. Sargent said: "I think we can pass the bill in the right shape without objection. Let us take it up. It is a very important one."

Mr. Frelinghuysen withdrew his objection.

Mr. Harvey thought it was a very important bill, and withdrew his amendment.

The bill was reported to the Senate, ordered to a third reading, read the third time, and passed. It went to President Grant for signature, and expired in his hands at the adjournment of that session of Congress.

On February 2, 1874, Mr. Fort introduced a bill (H. R. 1689) to tax buffalo hides; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.

On June 10, 1874, Mr. Dawes, from the Committee on Ways and Means, reported back the bill adversely, and moved that it be laid on the table.

Mr. Fort asked to have the bill referred to the Committee of the Whole, and it was so referred.

On February 2, 1874, Mr. R. C. McCormick, of Arizona, introduced in the House a bill (H. R. 1728) restricting the killing of the bison, or buffalo, on the public lands; which was referred to the Committee on the Public Lands, and never heard of more.

On January 31, 1876, Mr. Fort introduced a bill (H. R. 1719) to prevent the useless slaughter of buffaloes within the Territories of the United States, which was referred to the Committee on the Territories.[75]

[Note 75: Forty-fourth Congress, first session, vol. 4, part 2, pp.

1237-1241.]

The Committee on the Territories reported back the bill without amendment on February 23, 1876.[76] Its provisions were in every respect identical with those of the bill introduced by Mr. Fort in 1874, and which passed both houses.

[Note 76: Forty-fourth Congress first session, vol. 4, part 1, p. 773.]

In support of it Mr. Fort said: "The intention and object of this bill is to preserve them [the buffaloes] for the use of the Indians, whose homes are upon the public domain, and to the frontiersmen, who may properly use them for food. * * * They have been and are now being slaughtered in large numbers. * * * Thousands of these noble brutes are annually slaughtered out of mere wontonness. * * * This bill, just as it is now presented, passed the last Congress. It was not vetoed, but fell, as I understand, merely for want of time to consider it after having passed both houses." He also intimated that the Government was using a great deal of money for cattle to furnish the Indians, while the buffalo was being wantonly destroyed, whereas they might be turned to their good.

Mr. Crounse wanted the words "who is not an Indian" struck out, so as to make the bill general. He thought Indians were to blame for the wanton destruction.

Mr. Fort thought the amendment unnecessary, and stated that he was informed that the Indians did not destroy the buffaloes wantonly.

Mr. Dunnell thought the bill one of great importance.

The Clerk read for him a letter from A. G. Brackett, lieutenant-colonel, Second United States Cavalry, stationed at Omaha Barracks, in which was a very urgent request to have Congress interfere to prevent the wholesale slaughter then going on.

Mr. Reagan thought the bill proper and right. He knew from personal experience how the wanton slaughtering was going on, and also that the Indians were _not_ the ones who did it.

Mr. Townsend, of New York, saw no reason why a white man should not be allowed to kill a female buffalo as well as an Indian. He said it would be impracticable to have a separate law for each.

Mr. Maginnis did not agree with him. He thought the bill ought to pass as it stood.

Mr. Throckmorton thought that while the intention of the bill was a good one, yet it was mischievous and difficult to enforce, and would also work hardship to a large portion of our frontier people. He had several objections. He also thought a cow buffalo could not be distinguished at a distance.

Mr. Hancock, of Texas, thought the bill an impolicy, and that the sooner the buffalo was exterminated the better.

Mr. Fort replied by asking him why all the game--deer, antelope, etc.--was not slaughtered also. Then he went on to state that to exterminate the buffalo would be to starve innocent children of the red man, and to make the latter more wild and savage than he was already.

Mr. Baker, of Indiana, offered the following amendment as a substitute for the one already offered:

_Provided_, That any white person who shall employ, hire, or procure, directly or indirectly, any Indian to kill any buffalo forbidden to be killed by this act, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and punished in the manner provided in this act.

Mr. Fort stated that a certain clause in his bill covered the object of the amendment.

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